The grand final of the Roundhouse Poetry Slam 2012 is Wednesday night, with poets battling it out for the honour of being Champion and in possession of all-round poetical greatness. Polarbear, Daniel Cockrill, Indigo Williams and Musa Okwonga will be passing judgement and, so you don’t have to take it on trust that they know what they’re talking about, they’ll also be performing.
We spoke to Polarbear to find out a bit more about the night and poetry in general.
What’s the difference between a basic poetry reading and a slam?
A slam takes the idea of performing poems and adds the element of competition to charge the atmosphere and audience involvement. Each performer has a strict three minute time limit per piece which wouldn’t exist at a standard reading and the goal is to get the highest score from the judges.
Many poets have work that already fits the criteria for a slam so just do their thing, although often individuals will craft pieces specifically for a slam atmosphere and environment.
You’ve seen the competitors whittled down, what can we expect from the final?
We can expect a bunch of talented writers and performers giving it their all. The great thing about The Roundhouse Slam is that it is clearly about a lot more than the winning. The relationships that form between performers as well as between them and audience members often develop into new work and opportunities. Overall we can expect a great atmosphere and some quality words.
Tell us about your work with the Roundhouse Poetry Collective.
I have been leading the course for about three and a half years now and my philosophy is all about nurturing groups. The writing and performance side develop quite naturally when young people are keen and through exercises that takes care of itself. The main drive for me is the creation of the family dynamic whereby collaboration and group support becomes second nature to the members. This way when they go out into the arts world and performance scene they already have the tools to develop at whatever rate they choose to.
How did you get into performance poetry?
I was doing it before I knew it had a name I guess. A friend of mine saw a gig advertised in a brochure a few years ago back home in Birmingham and I went down and spoke some words and a guy there asked me to come and do a gig at Glastonbury and before I knew it I was here.
Apart from the Roundhouse, where should we go to check out new poets in London?
There are so many different nights now embracing and championing spoken word. Sometimes alongside music and other art forms and often just in its own right. The list would take up many pages, but my favourite by far is a night called Bang Said The Gun which is held on a Thursday evening and is consistently brilliant. Also check out OneTaste, Elephant, Chill Pill, Utter, Apples & Snakes, Rubix Collective, Hammer & Tongue, The VC and Come Rhyme With Me.
What’s your favourite part of London – and have you written a poem about it?
I live in Kentish Town which I really like, but my favourite part that I’ve been to is definitely Kilburn, because it reminds me the most of where I grew up. I haven’t written about Kilburn as I’m too busy writing about Birmingham.
The Roundhouse Poetry Slam takes place on Wednesday 29 August, 7.30pm, at the Roundhouse in Camden. Tickets cost £4. For more information see the Roundhouse website.